Goalsetting

It’s the time of year when a lot of people are working on resolutions, and keeping them or failing to do so. I didn’t set a New Years’ resolution, per se, but decided to work on my own goals after the bustle of the holidays was over. Specifically, my writing goals.

My nebulous ‘be a writer’ goal got a little more focused late last year, when an organization I’m happy to be a member of – the Romance Writers of America – changed their membership rules to specify that members need to prove serious intent. No more lollygagging! There’s plenty of time, of course – but it is time to get serious and see if I can really finish something.

My problem has never been ability (she said humbly), but lack of focus. For a long time, I would have a hard time writing because I often felt that I should be working – this was a particular problem when I telecommuted, because when you work at home it’s very hard to separate things.

When I decided to stay at home with the babies, one of the things I committed to doing was writing more. RWA’s change has given me a deadline, something I apparently need.

So how do I make myself write? What I’ve decided to do is set short-term goals. Rather than say ‘I want to finish a book’ by a certain date – or even ‘I want to finish a chapter’ – I’m saying ‘I will write.’ Specifically, I will write at least five hundred words a day, three days a week. Fifteen hundred words a week is practically minuscule – I frequently write more in a blog post, because I’m a wordy m-fer. But it’s the commitment that’s important.

short term goals

It’s adding the task to my to-do list; if I don’t get words in today, because babies or grocery or chaos or whatever, it moves forward to tomorrow and it gets done. Three days out of seven is a doable, achievable thing – and that’s my focus. I’m not giving myself huge goals – those are in the long term. I’m not even worried about finishing. I’m just trying to build a habit.

Rather than setting big, exciting dream-building goals, I’m setting goals I can actually meet. Once I have a strong writing habit, I can dip my foot into more specific, bigger goals – finish Chapter 11! Finish the book! Edit the book! But no ambitious daydreams are going to force me to sit in my chair and write; only daily accountability is.

So I bought myself a planner – something I needed anyway. I have one that is both weekly and monthly. On the weekly pages, I write my regular daily to-do list: things like ‘baby bath time’ and ‘go to Costco’. There’s a space for my meal plan (let’s talk about that another blog post, shall we?), and at the very bottom of every day, I write ‘Words:’. And then I jot down my word count after I’ve written.

On the monthly pages, I’ve pre-written my goals: 1500 words a week, 6000 words by the end of every month. Every Sunday, I add up my words from the week’s writing and note it on the monthly page above the goal. It’s very satisfying.

Eventually, I’ll be able to use the same system for fancier writing goals and deadlines – edit chapter four! Submit proofs! Release day! Plot sequel! (Think big!) All on the monthly page, with all my day-to-day still on the weekly. I might someday graduate to a fancier planner, but I think the system will stick.

So far, it’s going well, despite the chaos that is life with babies and family and everything else. I’m pretty pleased with the system – and even if I fail one week, the goals are so achievable (and so simple) that I’m not falling so far behind that I just give up.

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